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Capital markets records broken in 2020

Lucille Jones
Lucille Jones
Analyst, Deals Intelligence

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and in 2020, the global capital markets have certainly delivered that.


  1. By Q3 2020, debt capital markets have taken in $8T. Meanwhile, year-to-date figures show that $762B has been issued in equity capital markets (ECM).
  2. Tech fees in 2020 have so far leapt to a record $8.1B, which surpasses the highs seen during the dot-com bubble in 2000.
  3. In the first nine months of 2020, special purpose acquisition (SPAC) vehicle IPOs raised $44B — more than treble the sum for the same period in 2019.

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In the first nine months of the year, levels of equity and debt issuance surged, as corporates and sovereigns have sought to shore up their financial positions and ensure liquidity amid the pandemic-induced economic hiatus.

As a consequence, Refinitiv data finds that the global investment banking fee haul reached $91B in the year to September, a 15 percent rise on the same period last year.


Every month during that period, aside from March and May, hit new highs. Meanwhile, Asia-Pacific surpassed Europe in investment banking fees, across all products for the first time, to reach $21B.

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The tech sector brings in just under one-tenth of global banking fee income. However, so far this year it has leapt 23 percent to a record $8.1B — the first time it has surpassed the previous high of $7.8B, set 20 years ago at the height of the dot-com bubble.

Debt for sustainability

So far in 2020, global bond markets have absorbed an astonishing $8T, from both sovereign, agency, and corporate issuers.

The biggest risers were U.S. investment grade borrowers, accounting for $1.2T, an increase of 68 percent, and U.S. high-yield borrowers, which took $276B, a 79 percent increase on the same period last year.


Borrowers have included otherwise sound businesses that required liquidity in the face of economic lockdowns, and prudent reserve-building in the face of uncertainty, as well as more opportunistic forays by tech companies coming to market simply to secure the record low coupons available.

Sustainable finance bonds surged by 96 percent, year-on-year, to US$357.5B during the first nine months of 2020, an all-time record. While green bond issuance remained a major component of sustainability-related demand, sustainability and social bonds have moved to the forefront in response to the pandemic.

Equity capital markets at an all-time high

The rush for liquidity has also been playing out in the equity capital markets, which are now more than 60 percent larger this year than in the first nine months of 2019, issuing an all-time record $762B.


The big drivers were follow-on raisings, which increased by 81 percent to $484B, and convertible bonds, up 43 percent to $139B.

And then, amid the panic-buying and central bank liquidity injections, 2020 has seen the spectacular rise of that public markets hack known as the SPAC — special purpose acquisition vehicles.

Refinitiv data shows 126 SPAC IPOs raised $44B in the first nine months of the year, more than three-times the sum raised during the same period last year, as corporate value creators and investors seek to dodge the volatility and uncertainty of traditional listings through a cash-as-equity raising.


At this scale, we are entering unknown territory and it’s a bold prognosticator who will predict how this surge of creativity and enthusiasm may play out.

Capital markets meet economic challenges

Whatever the final tally of 2020, more than a decade on from the global financial crisis, global capital markets have demonstrated they can be part of the solution to real economy challenges, when it matters.

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